She was scared of roses. She did not know where the issue stemmed from.

Dec 8, 2022

With winter's official start less than two weeks away, it's rose pruning time. For rose lovers in Napa Valley, that can be hard to accept. With our relatively mild winters, many of us have roses blooming until Christmas.

It's a joy to still see so much color in our home rose gardens and in the Master Gardener-maintained rose garden in Napa's Fuller Park. Yet, as veteran home gardeners know, you have to prune your rose bushes in winter if you want healthy bushes in spring. As the saying goes, “Prune roses in January if you want to smell them in May.”

In January the Master Gardeners of Napa County will be offering a free two-part instructional course on how to prune roses. The first part, on January 14, will be a Zoom-based class on the basics of rose care. Participants in that session will have the rare opportunity to register for a one-on-one pruning demonstration by a Master Gardener at Fuller Park's rose garden on January 19.  

Attendees who bring their own long gloves, pruners and eye protection will be teamed up with a Master Gardener and actually do the pruning. Among the 51 rose bushes that require pruning are hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras, climbers, standards (tree roses) and small bushes. Each type has its own requirements for pruning and grooming. Learn and get your questions answered on site.

For those who are a little hesitant about growing roses, this course is the perfect opportunity to dispel your fears. Come learn how to grow these thorny beauties while growing your confidence in enhancing the eye candy in your yard.

According to the American Rose Society, roses prefer a deep, rich and fertile soil. However, roses are relatively resilient and can grow in a wide variety of soils. They prefer full sun but can manage with some shade in the heat of the day. They don't like drafty areas or soggy soil. 

If the conditions in your yard aren't ideal, consider planting roses in containers. You'll need to be more attentive to the watering and feeding in the confined space. Make sure the container has good drainage and the rose doesn't become top-heavy as it grows, or it could topple in the wind or from rambunctious little relatives and pets.

The key to healthy pruning of a rose bush is to know why you are doing it. The main reasons are to encourage better blooming and to keep the plant in a shape and size that fits the space. 

The biggest fear most people have about pruning is cutting too much. Beginners are often overly cautious and end up under-pruning the bush. This leads to wild and untamed canes (branches) and stems. The bush will try to feed all those canes, and with so much demand for its limited nutrients, the bush will produce small blooms and not many of them. In this situation, deadheading or removing seed pods is crucial to keep blooms coming.

On the other hand, you can over-prune a rosebush by cutting it too close to the ground or removing too many canes. Leaving three to four canes, each one to three feet long (depending on the size of the bush), will stimulate lush growth. Deadheading after the first bloom will encourage the bush to rebloom in its effort to produce seed pods.

Pruning techniques are basically the same for all roses types, but there are subtle differences that you will learn during the course. (See Zoom registration link below.) For those who want to get a head start on pruning without attending the course, visit the Master Gardener website at where you will find a wealth of information.  


Library Talk: Join UC Master Gardeners and Napa County Library for a free talk on “Trees: Moving to Greener Pastures” on Thursday, January 5, from 7 pm to 8 pm, via Zoom. Learn about the intricate subterranean fungal network that supports trees. Imagine with us what needs to take place for a community of trees to meet the challenges of our changing climate. Register to receive the Zoom link at

Workshop: Join UC Master Gardeners of Napa County for a workshop on “Winter Rose Care & Pruning” on Saturday, January 14, from 10 a.m. to noon via Zoom. Learn how to prepare your roses for the upcoming growing season and how to choose the right rose for the right place in your garden. Attendees will be invited to join a hands-on pruning workshop at Napa's Fuller Park rose garden on Thursday, January 19, from 10 a.m. to noon to practice pruning one-on-one with a Master Gardener. Register at

Help Desk: The Master Gardener Help Desk is available to answer your garden questions on Mondays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Send your questions to Include your name, address, phone number and a brief description of the problem.  For best results, attach a photo of the plant. You may also leave a voicemail message with the same information at 707-253-4143.